The Miraculous Medal – a reminder to ask with confidence for graces needed

By Donal Anthony Foley –

When Our Lady appeared in Fatima in 1917, the Miraculous Medal was well-established in the Church, having been revealed at the 19th century apparition to St.  Catherine Labouré in the chapel at the Rue du Bac convent in Paris.

The medal was given in this way: Our Lady appeared on a number of occasions to Catherine, who was a member of the community of the Daughters of Charity in Paris. The first apparition was in July 1830, and the Blessed Virgin told her that she wanted to give her, like the Fatima children, a mission, one that would involve her in many trials and difficulties.

She spoke of the upheavals that would afflict the Church and society in France and even said that the “whole world will be plunged into gloom.” But despite that, people should come to the foot of the altar in the Rue du Bac chapel, because there, “graces will be poured out on all those, small, or great, who ask for them with confidence and fervor. Graces will be poured out especially on those who ask for them.”

Her confessor, Father Aladel, was skeptical about all this when Catherine spoke about it to him, but this skepticism quickly vanished when, just over a week later, on July 17, 1830, the prophecies were fulfilled as the revolution began in Paris.

Later that same year, on Saturday, Nov. 27, the date which is now the feast of the Miraculous Medal, Catherine was in the chapel in the evening, when a glorious apparition of Our Lady standing on a globe appeared in the sanctuary. The Blessed Virgin, her lips moving silently in prayer, as she turned her eyes to heaven, wore a white silk dress with a white veil that fell to her feet; in her hands she held a golden ball.

The young Sister saw rings on Our Lady’s fingers encrusted with precious stones, which flashed and glittered. Then she heard an inner voice: “The ball which you see represents the whole world, especially France, and each person in particular. These rays symbolize the graces I shed upon those who ask for them. The gems from which rays do not fall are the graces for which souls forget to ask.”

Then, the golden ball vanished, as the third apparition began. The Blessed Virgin stretched out her arms and from her fingers rays of light fell upon the globe at her feet. At this point, an oval frame formed around her which had golden lettering that read: O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

The inner voice came again to Catherine: “Have a Medal struck after this model. All who wear it will receive great graces; they should wear it around the neck. Graces will abound for persons who wear it with confidence.”

Then this whole tableau revolved to reveal a large “M” surmounted by a bar and cross, with two hearts beneath it, one of which was crowned with thorns and the other pierced with a sword, all of which was encircled by twelve stars.

This was the way that Our Lady showed Catherine the design for the new medal, both front and back, and these second and third apparitions express very clearly the idea of Mary as Mediatrix of all graces that, although it has not been solemnly defined, is the general teaching of the Church.

Catherine spoke to Father Aladel about submitting this design of the medal to a Paris engraver. He then went to see the Archbishop of Paris, Archbishop de Quélen, who after asking many searching questions, gave permission for the medal to be struck. The result was that the new medal spread very quickly, giving rise to widespread reports of miracles of grace and nature.

All of this led to an investigation into the “Medal of the Immaculate Conception,” which in turn led to a canonical inquiry in February 1836 that concluded Catherine was of good character, that her apparitions were to be accepted as reliable and that the Medal was supernaturally inspired and responsible for genuine miracles.

By then millions of Miraculous Medals had been produced and were in wide circulation. After all the upheavals caused by the French Revolution, and the more recent revolution in Paris, they helped to restore the traditions of Catholicism among ordinary French people.

Thus, the Miraculous Medal became an important sacramental and was responsible for numerous conversions, including that of the Jewish banker, Alphonse Ratisbonne, in 1842. It also prepared the ground, spiritually, for the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854.

Like the Fatima seers, Catherine’s life after the apparitions was no bed of roses, and she was not destined to bask in celebrity status as a recognized seer – in fact she remained completely anonymous as regards what happened in 1830, and settled down into the routine of looking after old men at a hospice.

Catherine died on Dec. 31, 1876, but when her body was disinterred in May 1933 at the time of her beatification, it was found to be incorrupt. She was canonized in 1947 and Pope John Paul II visited the Rue du Bac convent in May 1980, to pray before the statue of the Virgin with the globe.

A number of saintly Marian figures from the 20th century were great supporters of the Miraculous Medal, including St. Maximilian Kolbe, Frank Duff, the founder of the Legion of Mary, and St. Mother Teresa.

St. Maximilian actually had the inspiration for the founding of his organization, the Militia Immaculate, during the 75th anniversary year of the conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne, following a meditation he heard on this conversion experience. This led St. Maximilian to choose the Miraculous Medal as the emblem of his new society, and he was zealous in using it to gain converts.

Frank Duff was likewise very enthusiastic about the Miraculous Medal, and encouraged Legionaries to make use of it and explain it to those they came into contact with.

St. Mother Teresa, too, had a great love for the Miraculous Medal and used to press medals into the hands of those who flocked to see her. To this day, her Sisters distribute millions of these medals each year.

The Miraculous Medal is an important sacramental and the promises attached to it by Our Lady are just as necessary and efficacious today as they were in the 19th century. It would be good if more Catholics handed out Miraculous medals to those they come into contact with, safe in the knowledge that Our Lady will impart copious graces to them.

Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, including Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World, and maintains a related web site at www.theotokos.org.uk. He has also written two time-travel/adventure books for young people – details can be found at: http://glaston-chronicles.co.uk/

 

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